I still remember the first ever comic that I bought with my own money and my tiny sticky six-year-old hands. My parents both frequented flea markets and thrift stores so my room was full of old back issues and I owned plenty of comic strip collections. Basically, I was already a passionate comics reader when I wandered into the cavernous indoor market known as London’s Spitalfields. None of those comics mattered, though, as I only had one thing on my mind—finding a specific first issue.
It was 1994 and I was very aware of just how valuable a collectable single issue could be. I was a voracious reader and the infamous Sotheby’s auction that had happened three years earlier was fresh on the minds of comics fans everywhere. During the 1991 sale, a copy of Detective Comics #27 had sold for $55,000 and Action Comics #1 sold for the low estimated price of $29,700. Though those might seem like a steal now, at the time they were unbelievably large prices and inspired a generation of collectors who wanted to find that one magic book.
So, if I could find it, maybe, just maybe I’d be sitting on a goldmine that could change my family’s life forever. Bless my little speculator’s heart.
As anyone who actually reads comics, cares about the industry and isn’t a literal infant knows, not every issue #1 is made equal. In fact, speculation would be one of the reasons that the industry crashed before I turned 10. But back then, those dusty cardboard boxes were full of potential and promise. I flicked through the issues until my fingers were covered in the ink stains that any quarter bin diver will know well. And then I saw it. Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #1. The young blonde heroine reached out to me from the cover, her hands offering to take mine to a magical world where anyone could secretly be a magical princess.
And maybe, just maybe, this book would be worth a mint.
Little did I know that the issue by Dan Mishkin, Gary Cohn, Ric Estrada and Ernie Colon was actually Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #1 (Vol 2) and the original—also not very collectable—issue #1 was actually from 1983, whereas my find was from 1985. It didn’t matter, though. I took my shiny pound coin and handed it over, taking home the first comic I ever bought. From the debut splash page where the titular heroine sprawls over the beautiful and abstract surreal purple background, I was hooked. Picking up a first issue by Estrada and Colon was a lucky chance and their dense, experimental and exciting art offered up a new treat with every page turn.
I was a child of the ’90s, so I’d read plenty of bombastic X-Men books and classic superheroes. But here was a trippy, esoteric and colorful book about a young girl—one who had the power to escape her normal life and become stronger, more powerful and more able to protect herself and those she loved, a skill I still wish I could master to this day. The best thing about Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #1 (Vol 2) is that I believed I was reading a first issue, so I was thrown headfirst into a story that was already fully in motion. It likely did more to teach me about the medium of comics and books that trust their audience than anything I’ve read since, although I’m sure at the time I was just enamored with the dragons, pirates and demons.
Rereading the series, which centers around a young girl named Amy who also happens to be a secret member of the royal family of Gemworld, I was struck by how much it shares with the comics that would define my taste. The mix of mundane suburbia and surreal supernatural, the chunky sound effects and saturated colors. Estrada and Colon bring so much of the Silver Age to each page, while also bringing the horror and strangeness of EC and Swamp Thing.
I’ve always felt like the chance to reimagine Amethyst and her unique worlds was ripe, though I’d rarely seen anything that came close to the magic of my very first comic. But putting Amethyst in the hands of another famous Amy was all it took to do the trick. The recent Amethyst series from Amy Reeder takes the enchanting fairytale and throws it into the contemporary comics landscape with aplomb. Reeder is never afraid to take stylistic chances and tell a story about both the girl and the hero. Writing this, I couldn’t be happier that the comic that changed my life is reaching a whole new audience.
Though I never got to make my fortune off Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld #1, the issue sparked a joy in me for collecting and discovering new comics. I might not have reaped a financial reward, but now I create comics and get to write about them for a living, so in a way that day offered up a reward of its own, lighting a fire in my chest for a medium that will never go out… Maybe it was worth a mint after all.
Both 1985’s Amethyst: Princess of Gemworld by Dan Miskin, Gary Cohn, Ric Estrada and Ernie Colon and 2020’s Amethyst by Amy Reeder are available to read on DC Universe Infinite. Amy Reeder’s Amethyst is also available in a new trade collection.
Rosie Knight writes about comics, movies and TV for DCComics.com, Nerdist, IGN and Den of Geek.
NOTE: The views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of Rosie Knight and do not necessarily reflect those of DC Entertainment or Warner Bros.